Skip to content
Permanent marker pens.

How to Get Permanent Marker Out of Clothes

Have you accidentally marked your clothes with permanent ink? Don't worry! Read our step-by-step guide to permanent marker removal & say goodbye to stains.

Image by John Mayer

Whether you’re enjoying a fun and creative day with the kids at the weekend, or are helping out with a school project, permanent markers are a must-have item in any craft cupboard. They help keep your kid’s artwork looking bright and vibrant for longer and are handy for labelling items, but they do have a downside – the stains! The good news is that although permanent marker inks are long lasting, their stains don’t have to be. Here’s a handy guide to help you tackle permanent marker removal.  

Why is Removing Permanent Marker Different to Removing Pen Ink?

Whereas regular ballpoint pens and many felt tip pens designed for kids are water-based, permanent markers are oil-based or alcohol-based. These oils and alcohols are called ‘carriers’, and they help the ink stick to a surface, and stay there. The carriers are water-resistant, so the bond between the carriers and the surface cannot be broken through the use of water alone. While flushing ballpoint pen stains with water will often produce great results, you’ll need to have some extra products on hand for dealing with permanent ink stains.  

What Can Remove Marker Pen?

The trick is to treat permanent marker stains with products that can break down the oils and alcohols in the ink, exposing the colourants, and allowing you to treat the discolouration in much the same way you would any other stain – through washing! Alcohol is a solvent and is very effective and efficient at breaking down oils and other alcohols found in marker pens.

Methylated spirits and rubbing alcohol (which can be found at your local DIY store or chemist) are often very useful, but if you’d rather use items you have lying around the house, alcohol-based hairsprays and alcohol-based antibacterial hand soaps (in liquid form) are also good choices.

For a step-by-step guide to removing permanent marker, keep on scrolling!

A Step-by-Step Guide to Permanent Marker Removal

Here’s an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide that tells you everything you need to know about how to get permanent marker out of clothes. We can’t promise full stain removal, but with the right products and techniques, you may be able to salvage your item of clothing!

  • Always try to treat a permanent marker stain as quickly as possible – preferably before the ink has had a chance to dry. If you’re out and about when the stain occurs, don’t worry. It may take you a little longer to remove a dried stain, but it is possible!

  • If the stain is still wet, remove as much excess ink as possible by blotting the stain with a microfiber cloth – never use paper towels as they can disintegrate when damp and leave tiny paper particles that can become caught in the fibres of your clothing. Make sure you don’t wipe and scrub the stain as the ink could spread – just dab gently.

  • Test your chosen solvent on a small, inconspicuous area of your clothing to ensure it won’t damage the material. Everyday cottons and synthetic fibres are usually quite hardwearing and durable and can withstand harsh cleaning products, but some more delicate fabrics like wool and silk may suffer – check the care labels before attempting stain removal. If your test area becomes damaged or discoloured, it’s best to take the clothing to a professional dry cleaner.

  • Apply your chosen solvent directly to the stain. Rubbing alcohol, methylated spirits, and antibacterial hand gels should be applied until the area becomes wet, and hairspray should be applied thickly to the area (the stain should feel a little damp and sticky). Leave the solvent on the stain for 15 minutes, giving it time to break down the bonds. Keep the windows open to ventilate the area.

  • After 15 minutes, the stain should still feel quite wet (if not, apply a little more solvent to the area). Now is the time to pop the clothing into the washing machine with a laundry detergent that’s specifically designed to tackle stains head on while taking good care of your clothes, such as Persil washing capsules. Just pop one or two caps into the washing machine drum (check the label for dosage instructions) before adding your clothes. Wash at 30 degrees (or as high as the care label recommends) and wash separately from other clothes if possible to prevent any ink colour transfer. Once the cycle has finished, ensure the stain has been removed and allow the garment to dry naturally. If some discolouration remains, repeat the cleaning process once more before drying.

  • If you’ve tried the above methods and had no luck, or you’re unsure about the fabric of your garment, then you should pop your garment down to your local dry cleaner for expert advice.

Understanding what makes permanent markers different from regular water-based pens is the key to unlocking the secret of stain removal. Armed with your newfound knowledge, a can of hairspray, and a couple of Persil Powercaps washing capsules, you’re equipped to tackle ink stains head on! Looking for information on water-based ink stains?